HootSuite University Moving into J-School Classrooms

It’s back to school time and the debate about how to teach journalism is already underway. As academics debate the ‘teaching hospital model’ and hackathons, there’s some real time relief for professors at the 101 level– and it’s coming from a brand. HootSuite, the social media management system, has long offered certification programs and paid pro-package ‘educate yourself’ content. Now, they’re moving into higher education.

Launched in 2011,  HootSuite University has already partnered with over 350 universties, including NYU, Syracuse, and Columbia. The program is more than just product training, though that’s included. There’s also a tailored curriculum for journalism and communications professors, which covers topics from the easy stuff like maintaining a social media presence and best practices to story tracking and analytics.

Lesson objectives cover a variety of topics from “How to Live Tweet an Event With Integrity” and “Compare Social Media Analytics with Site Traffic Using Google Analytics. The curriculum follows the “Read, Watch, Do” format, so professors have an archive of articles, videos, and examples to share with students and suggestions for homework assignments like setting up a Tumblr blog and tracking it, or revising a Twitter bio. Professors can follow the curriculum rigorously, or just use it as inspiration. Dr. William Ward, a professor at at the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse, uses HootSuite’s program to make more time for other things, he told me via email: 

I integrate HootSuite into the curriculum of all my courses because it frees me up to focus on higher level strategic concepts. Students receive recognized, industry leading professional credentials that give them a competitive advantage in the job arena.

You can see how Ward integrates the HootSuite program into his own syllabus here. Does it feel weird to have a brand take over the classroom? It might be time to get over that. According Allie Russell, marketing coordinator for HootSuite University, pushback from the ivory tower was something they came up against in the early stages:

 …especially because the academic world is really just their own world, it was hard for people to understand the value of partnering with what just felt like a brand. Yes, we offer product training because we are a leading social media management system so we teach people how to use our products to be successful. But that’s not the only thing we can teach. You really have to understand the industry as a whole before you can be successful with a system.

That means that the program isn’t just about using the product, but taking advantage of webinars and articles from industry leaders; students get free access to all that HootSuite offers . Most of the linked articles and videos in the curriculum come from places outside of HootSuite’s content archives.  

How we prepare journalists for the real world is an ongoing issue, but universities that want to remain on the cutting edge will need to take note of iniatives like HootSuite University. Dr. Ward believes partnerships like these only help to young journos: 

…higher education needs industry partnerships to be able to keep up with the rapid pace of change and to make certain they are preparing students with the dynamic digital and social skills required by today. These partnerships are vital to higher ed remaining relevant and vital.

The HootSuite higher education program also has curriculums for marketing and PR/consulting professors, which you can peruse here.

What do you think journalism departments should consider for preparing students for the digital workforce?